WHY USE MODULAR CONSTRUCTION IN HEALTHCARE?

How does modular construction save time and money for project owners, and why should healthcare embrace this method?

In the aftermath of 2020, healthcare facility managers are gearing up to plan and execute their large-scale construction projects. Because many of these projects were initially canceled or postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19, healthcare will inevitably see an influx of construction activities with shortened deadlines to meet the growing need.

Pre-fabrication and modular construction—one of the fastest-growing trends in construction today—is prepared for the challenge.

 

WHAT IS MODULAR CONSTRUCTION

Over the years, the $400 billion healthcare construction sector has experienced its fair share of transformation. Although many industry trends come and go, pre-fabrication and modular construction are here to stay. The Modular Building Institute, an international trade association with the mission “to expand the use of off-site construction,” defines modular construction as:

 

“MODULAR CONSTRUCTION IS THE PROCESS IN WHICH A BUILDING IS CONSTRUCTED OFF-SITE, UNDER CONTROLLED CONDITIONS, USING THE SAME MATERIALS AND DESIGNING TO THE SAME CODES AND STANDARDS AS CONVENTIONALLY BUILT FACILITIES – BUT IN A SIGNIFICANTLY SHORTER TIMEFRAME. IT ALLOWS BUILDING OWNERS TO SHORTEN CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULES AND REDUCE COSTS.” 

-Modular Building Institute

 

Modular construction, seldom used in healthcare a decade ago, is now utilized by healthcare 49% of the time, according to recent industry statistics. The rising popularity of modular construction in the healthcare industry could be attributed to many significant advantages over traditional construction methods, such as quality, cost, and speed.

 

WHERE IS MODULAR CONSTRUCTION BEING USED?

To depict the idea of modular construction further – Which aspects of a hospital could be built off-site before being transferred and installed on-site? Based on the concept of “repetitive design” (repetitive off-site modules), a term commonly used in pre-fabrication and modularization discussions, there are numerous areas in healthcare facilities, including:

  • Exam rooms
  • HVAC
  • Perioperative spaces
  • Holding bays
  • Fire protection
  • Plumbing
  • Bathrooms
  • Patient-unit overhead utilities
  • Headwalls
  • Hospital patient rooms

Modular building is a potentially helpful approach for a project whose main objective is a tight schedule or speed to market. Suppose the modular construction method doesn’t happen to be the right fit for a particular project. In that case, there are still other lean aspects an experienced project manager can suggest to create value. Modular construction is characteristically a more complex and comprehensive form of prefabrication. So, rather than constructing an entire room off-site, a team could prefabricate a component of the complicated building elements off-site, resulting in the same benefits of speed and quality. For example, building all the overhead electrical, vents, mechanical, and plumbing work into “racks” to be delivered and installed as one piece. To ensure your project is delivered with the latest methods and technology appropriate for your project, it is crucial to engage an experienced project management team and engage them as early as possible.

 

MAIN ADVANTAGES FOR MODULAR CONSTRUCTION IN HEALTHCARE

According to research by FMI Corporation,

“MODULARIZATION AND PRE-FABRICATION WILL PLAN AN INCREASINGLY VITAL ROLE IN IMPROVING THE PRODUCTIVITY OF THE ENTIRE CONSTRUCTION VALUE CHAIN.” 

-FMI Corporation

 

The three most outstanding advantages of modular over traditional construction are commonly known as quality, cost-effectiveness, and schedule reduction.

  • QUALITY: modular construction ensures a higher-quality product by following a standardized industrial process rather than traditional construction, where the quality can quite literally differ from one room to the next.
  • COST: despite the improved quality, modular construction is generally less expensive. Construction costs differ depending on many factors—but with modular construction, each patient room or facility can have the same standards regardless of where they are located in the United States. Therefore, modular construction contributes directly to cost predictability. Additionally, fewer supervisors are needed to oversee a larger volume of work, and labor can be made more efficient with specialized tools and equipment, further contributing to cost savings.
  • SCHEDULE REDUCTION: Because of the streamlined nature of the process and the labor efficiency, modular construction often saves up to 50% of the typical durations compared to traditional on-site construction. This statistic can be attributed to many factors, including
    • On-site development, utility, and foundation work can proceed at the same time modules are manufactured off-site.
    • Shorter installation time which decreases site restoration time
  • FLEXIBILITY & REUSE: modular units, from primary care buildings to decontamination units, may be constructed to blend in with the external aesthetics of any existing structure and, once constructed, can be indistinguishable from their site-built counterparts. Modular structures may also be rapidly and effectively disassembled, and the modules relocated for new use, lowering the demand for raw materials and reducing the energy consumed to fulfill the new need.
  • INCREASED CONSTRUCTION SAFETY & LESS DISRUPTION: Most modular construction takes place inside a factory, which minimizes truck travel and disruption, accident risk, worker liability, and weather-related delays, saving both money and time. In addition, proper sequencing allows for more efficient work space for people, equipment, and materials on the job site.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: due to the shortened installation time, modular building generates up to 90% less waste and requires 60% less energy to build than traditional construction methods. Factory-made modular constructions also minimize the possibility of large amounts of moisture becoming trapped in new construction, and the lack of specific wall installations can drastically reduce dust, therefore minimizing effects on the interior air quality environment. This factor is critical given the patients’ health concerns and the specialized technology utilized in these situations. Waste material from modular construction projects can also be used on future projects or recycled.
  • LIMITING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19: modular construction allows for increased hygiene and better control of social distancing in a factory setting versus a jobsite. For example, the use of temporary restrooms and carpooling are minimized, both of which could lead to Covid-19 transmissions.

 

CHALLENGES IN MODULAR CONSTRUCTION 

Modular construction is not without drawbacks. Because new facilities will be built off-site, the modules will need to be safely rigged and delivered straight to the project site. The shipping procedure necessitates extreme caution, as a single incident in transit might result in costly repairs. Furthermore, due to the rapid turnaround of modularity, the operation demands more extensive decision making for design, material selection, and coordination far earlier in the process, essentially “front-loading” the project team’s involvement before the conventional start of construction. Once the process has begun, changes to the design and materials will majorly influence the production timeline. As a result, the initial costs are likely to be greater, even though the ultimate price lowers. To gain critical visibility into potential risks, connect with your 3rd party project management team, who coordinates with specialized and certified manufacturers early in the process, to fully understand anticipated costs, timing, and decisions. From there, the project management team may provide an analysis and recommendation with the expected schedule time impacts/improvements and cost savings versus conventional construction.

 

MODULAR CONSTRUCTION IN ACTION 

“THE GREAT BENEFITS PF MODULAR INCLUDE CONSISTENT PRODUCT QUALITY, ELIMINATING CHANGE ORDERS, AND REDUCING PUNCH LISTS AND JOBSITE WASTE.”

Jennifer Abuzeid, Marriot International

The world’s tallest modular hotel – Marriott International 

 

EMBRACING MODULAR CONSTRUCTION IN HEALTHCARE

The modular industry will continue to develop despite the obstacles since a well-organized plant is a far more productive work environment than a construction job site. Yet, healthcare as a whole is still reluctant towards full adoption. The most difficult challenge is getting beyond preconceived notions and overcoming anticipated opposition from the traditional construction method. While construction firms have raised concerns about the rise of a revolutionary change in the industry, the reality is that those firms are already experiencing urgent problems, including spiked labor prices and drastic material escalation and shortages.

“THE AVERAGE AGE OF A CONSTRUCTION WORKER IS 42 YEARS OLD, AND FEWER YOUNGER PEOPLE ARE MOVING INTO CONSTRUCTION. THERE ARE A LOT OF BENEFITS{TO MODULAR} NOT JUST FOR CLIENTS AND PATIENTS, BUT ALSO FOR THE CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES THAT JUST DON’T HAVE THE PEOPLE TO GET THESE PROJECTS DONE ANYMORE.”

-EIR Healthcare

Ultimately, a greater percentage of work completed in a plant equals greater savings. Because the transportation and hoist expenses for a complete unit are roughly the same as for the bare frame, a module should have as much labor and materials integrated as feasible before leaving the plant.

 

INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY IN MODULAR CONSTRUCTION FOR HEALTHCARE

Another significant benefit of modular construction is the potential to include cutting-edge innovative technology for the benefit of everyone who interacts with these spaces. Touchless procedures, for example, to minimize the transfer of germs and pathogens, as well as visual displays and monitoring that assist both the patient and the caregiver. Abbott works to ensure the rooms have all the technology integrated upfront and that the business unit leads are fully trained and prepared to occupy the new space from day one. This methodology helps us reduce our client’s schedules and provide an experience that is smoother, smarter, and more efficient.

“TRYING TO ADD THOSE THINGS INTO TRADITIONAL CONSTRUCTION ADDS COST AND TIME BECAUSE IT’S NOT AN INTEGRATIVE PROCESS. IF A CLIENT IS USING IOT SENSORS IN THE ROOM, WE’RE PRECISELY LASER CUTTING EACH SPOT IN THE SAME LOCATION IN EACH ROOM, AND IT’S AN EXACT FIT, AS OPPOSED TO A CONTRACTOR DOING IT ALL ON-SITE.”

-Grant Geiger, EIR Healthcare

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Going from drawings to ribbon cutting is a grueling process, but with modular construction, it doesn’t have to be. Building a multi-functional healthcare building that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week is more than a goal; it is a must. Modular construction assists in laying the groundwork for your next healthcare project by doing the reverse – setting it off-site. At Abbott, we have long recognized the benefits of the modular concept based on our years of experience providing modular project solutions to healthcare (and many other sectors).

EVEN WITH MODULAR CONSTRUCTION SLOWLY GAINING MOMENTUM IN HEALTHCARE, THERE IS STILL A DEMAND FOR GENERAL CONTRACTORS, A CORE TEAM OF SKILLED LABORERS, AND EXPERIENCED PROJECT MANAGERS TO DELIVER THESE PROJECTS THE RIGHT WAY.

Our team specializes in providing predictable outcomes in an ever-changing environment. With modular construction, we can ensure better building quality through improved quality control procedures, exemplary performance, and reduced overall schedules compared with traditional construction methods.

 

For Further Information Contact:

Randy Thomas Managing Principal, Project & Program Manager

randy.thomas@abbott-pm.com T: 800-250-3181 D: 202-602-2199   

1.800.250.3181Book a Consultation